In a struggling economy, there is even greater competition among businesses for the almighty dollar. It is the epitome of the expression “survival of the fittest” when you see which businesses will close shop and which will find ways to succeed. What ultimately separates the two is the ability to see the opportunity in an otherwise difficult situation.
At the local level, small businesses are trying to find the most efficient ways to effectively communicate with their customers and traditionally, print newspapers and Yellow Pages were the answer. Well, the times have changed and advertising spend is shifting. While print newspapers are experiencing real financial hardships and some are even facing closures, online local advertising is still one of the largest opportunities for growth within the next three to five years according to the January 13, 2009 report released by The Kelsey Group. Further, within the online local advertising segment, vertical advertising accounts for 39 percent of all online ad spending. But what does this really mean?
As businesses look to online for their advertising plans, it’s important to diversify the types of outlets utilized and understand the various ways in which consumers search. As consumers make their way through the purchase funnel, they most frequently will use search engines to begin the search but as they move to the consideration phase, they are increasingly using vertical web sites to help make the final buying decision. This is a critical stage where advertisers can reach and make an impact on consumers’ end purchase decision therefore it is imperative that advertisers consider both search engine marketing and vertical web sites in their media mix.
Let’s look at a few web sites that are examples of key verticals where an advertiser can have an impact on the purchase funnel (full disclosure: ApartmentGuide.com and Kitchen & Bath Design News are Marchex vertical publishers):
|WeddingWire.com||A wedding Web site where newly engaged couples can locate local vendors, such as florists, caterers, and dress shops; and enables local vendors to advertise their services, providing lead generation and clear ROI.|
|ApartmentGuide.com||A national Web site that allows consumers to locate local rental properties; enables advertisers to tie relevant advertisements to Web pages that include topical articles related to topics like moving and storage, furnishing, and home services.|
|Kitchen & Bath Design News||A business, design and product resource for the kitchen & bath trade, providing a highly relevant audience and value for advertisers directly targeting the kitchen and bath market – with ads linking back to local providers.|
An alternative to advertising directly on a handful of vertical sites is to use a vertical advertising network. Ad networks that use vertical web sites cater to a very specific audience, creating a high relevancy, albeit a sometimes higher cost option. By diversifying their advertising budget to including vertical sites, advertisers can ultimately receive the highest return-on-investment by targeting a highly relevant, highly targeted local audience that is ready to buy.
For example, if Edward Jones, a well known, national financial firm with local offices, was to use an ad network to place ads on Investors.com, Forbes.com or MotleyFool.com, it would provide the ability to connect with a consumer who’s already actively searching for information. By placing an ad for a local office next to the article on mutual funds, Edward Jones is able to engage the consumer at that critical point in the decision-making cycle, pointing him toward that local office where he can learn more about Edward Jones’ services.
With access to a large variety of vertical advertising networks, advertisers and advertising agencies are in a prime position to help connect the local business owner with his target customer. And whether in a healthy economy or one that is struggling, a diversified marketing mix that uses both search engine marketing and vertical advertising networks broadens the various ways in which businesses communicate and reach consumers, resulting in increased leads and more sales.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.